Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | July 6, 2008

Lord’s Day Quote: Louis Berkhof

a.  God is the principium essendi.  God is the source and fountain of all our knowledge.  He possesses an archetypal knowledge of all created things, embracing all ideas that are expressed in the works of His creation.  This knowledge of God is quite different from that of man.  While we derive our knowledge from the objects we perceive, He knows them in virtue of the fact that He has from eternity determined their being and form.  While we attain to a scientific insight into things and relations only by a laborious process of discursive thought, He has an immediate knowledge of all things, and knows them not only in their relations but also in their very essence.  And even so our knowledge is imperfect, while His knowledge is all-comprehensive and perfect in every way.  We are only partly conscious of what we know, while He is always perfectly conscious of all His knowledge.  The fulness of the divine knowledge is the inexhaustible source of our knowledge, and therefore God is the prinicipium essendiof all scientific knowledge.  Naturally, Pantheism with its impersonal and unconscious Absolute cannot admit this, for a God, who has no knowledge Himself, can never be the principle or source of our knowledge.  In fact, all absolute Idealism would seem to involve a denial of this principle, since it makes man an autonomous source of knowledge.  The origin of knowledge is sought in the subject; the human mind is no more a mere instrument, but is regarded as a real fons or sources.

b.  The world as God’s creation is the principium cognoscendi externum.  Instead of “the world as God’s creation” we might also say “God’s revelation in nature.”  Of His archetypal knowledge God has conveyed an ectypal knowledge to man in the works of His hands, a knowledge adapted to the finite human consciousness. This ectypal knowledge is but a faint reproduction of the archetypal knowledge found in God.  It is on the one hand real and true knowledge, because it is an imprint, a reproduction, though in temporal and therefore limited forms, of the knowledge of God.  On the other hand it is, just because it is ectypal, no complete knowledge, and since sin put its stamp on creation, no perfectly clear nor absolutely true knowledge.  God conveyed this knowledge to man by employing the Logos, the Word, as the agent of creation.  The idea that finds expression in the world is out of the Logos.  Thus the whole world is an embodiment of the thoughts of God or, as Bavinck puts it, “a book which He has written with large and small letters, and therefore not a writing-book in which we, as the Idealists think, must fill in the words.”  God’s beautiful creation, replete with divine wisdom, is the principium cognoscendi externum of all non-theological sciences.  It is the external means, by which the knowledge that flows from God is conveyed to man.  This view of the matter is, of course absolutely opposed to the principle of Idealism, that the thinking man creates and construes his own world: not only the form of the world of thought (Kant), but also its material and contents (Fichte), and even the world of being (Hegel).

Louis Berkhof,   The Idea and History of Dogmatic Theology


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